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Varu Chilakamarri

Varu Chilakamarri is a partner in the firm's Environment, Land, and Natural Resources practice group. Her practice focuses on litigation services, with a specialization in appellate matters and in administrative, environmental, and energy law. Varu also counsels clients on government-facing matters, which often involve strategic analysis of legal risks and opportunities presented by statutory and regulatory frameworks.

Varu joins the firm after a 17-year career at the US Department of Justice, where she was a successful federal district and appellate court litigator and held various senior leadership roles. Most recently, she served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ's Civil Division. In this role, Varu was the head of the Torts Branch, an office of over 230 litigators and staff who defend the United States in a wide range of suits for monetary damages—including toxic tort cases arising out of environmental regulatory actions, constitutional tort cases, and cases brought under unique statutory compensation programs. 

Before that, Varu was an appellate attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division, serving as lead counsel in complex civil and criminal appeals. These included facial challenges to the constitutionality of federal laws and regulations, and challenges to the validity of federal permitting and land use decisions (e.g., cases involving the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act). She also litigated enforcement cases, including those involving violations of substantive environmental laws, recordkeeping requirements, and various Title 18 provisions. She argued cases before the US Court of Appeals for the Third, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, D.C., and the Federal Circuit, and she has practiced in several other federal appellate and district courts. Varu was previously appointed as the Division's first counselor for animal welfare matters and served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Attorney General in DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Varu's work at the DOJ often centered on novel legal challenges arising from a broad suite of federal statutes, including two preemption lawsuits that went to the US Supreme Court.

Varu joined the DOJ in 2006 through the Attorney General's honors program as a trial attorney in the Civil Division's Federal Programs Branch, and during her tenure, also worked in the office of the Associate Attorney General as Acting Deputy and served on detail to the White House Counsel's Office. Before joining the DOJ, Varu clerked for Judge R. Guy Cole in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Judge Timothy B. Dyk in the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

  • Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Justice Department (2013)
  • Special Commendation Award for Outstanding Service to the Civil Division (2012)
  • Perseverance Award from Civil Division (2010)
  • Outstanding Performance Awards from the Environment and Natural Resources Division (2016, 2018, 2020)
  • Ex officio member of the Department of Justice’s State Secrets Review Committee (2013-2014)
  • ABA/BNA Award for Excellence in Intellectual Property (2004) 
  • Leon Robbin Gold Medallion in Patent Law at Georgetown University Law Center (2004)
  • Guest Faculty, “Regulation and the Administrative State After Loper Bright, Corner Post, and Jarkesy,” ALI CLE, 29 July 2024
  • Speaker, “The Major Questions Doctrine: Doctrinal Conundrums and Practice Implications,” 2024 Administrative Law Spring Conference, 10 May 2024
  • Speaker, “WBA Got Skills: Developing What it Takes to Lead Forward |Leadership vs. Management: A Fireside Chat,” Woman’s Bar Association, 25 April 2024
  • Participant, "Administrative Law After the Major Questions Doctrine and Chevron," Harvard Law School symposium, 25 March 2024
Additional Thought Leadership Pages
  • 3 Ways Agencies Will Keep Making Law After Chevron,” Law360, 2 July 2024
  • APA Litigation: Procedural Mechanisms that Focus Environmental Controversies, 2019 No. 2 RMMLF- INST 9, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute (2019) (Article and Presenter)
  • Harvard Law School, The Animal Welfare Act at Fifty (Conference Presenter and Panel Moderator) (2016)
  • Structural Nonobviousness: How Inventiveness is Lost in the Discovery, 10 Va. J.L. & Tech. 7 (2005)
  • Taxpayer Standing: A Step Toward Animal-Centric Litigation, 10 Animal L. 251 (2004)
  • The Legislative Attempt to Combat Terrorism via the Safe Drinking Water Act, 91 Geo. L. J. 927 (2003)
Additional News & Event Pages
  • Quoted, “US businesses may soon find that deregulation comes with risks,” Financial Times, Block Journal and Teknomers, 10 July 2024
  • Quoted, “Supreme Court’s Chevron, Corner Post decisions could delay energy investments, spur litigation: analysts,” ESG Dive, 8 July 2024
  • Quoted, “Regulatory uncertainty ahead as SCOTUS rulings give companies incentive to sue government,” Legal Dive, 3 July 2024
  • Quoted, “Wall Street's top regulator faces worsening battle in wake of Supreme Court ruling,” Reuters, Rethinking 65, Market Screener, and US News & World Report, 28 June 2024
  • Quoted, “Pollution Curbs, Non-Compete Bans at Risk by Chevron Ruling,” Bloomberg Law and Yahoo! News, 28 June 2024
  • Quoted, “Supreme Court ends Chevron deference in landmark decision,” American Banker, Asset Securitization Report, and National Mortgage News, 28 June 2024 
  • Quoted, “SCOTUS overturns Chevron doctrine, limiting federal agency reach,” Utility Dive, K-12 Dive, and HR Dive, 28 June 2024
  • Quoted, “In big win for business, Supreme Court dramatically limits rulemaking power of federal agencies,” Los Angeles Times, 28 June 2024
  • Quoted, “K Street cheers SCOTUS’ Chevron ruling,”, 28 June 2024
  • Quoted, “Supreme Court curbs power of federal regulators, overturning 40-year precedent The decision affects how federal agencies can regulate the environment, workplace conditions, food safety and other areas of American life.,” USA Today and The Columbus Dispatch, 28 June 2024
  • Quoted, “Chevron's End Is Just The Start For Energized Agency Foes,” Law360, 28 June 2024
  • Quoted, “Chevron Ruling Poised to Boost Business for Corporate Litigators,” Bloomberg Law, 1 July 2024
  • Quoted, “Chevron Ruling May ‘Hamstring’ SEC Rulemaking Agenda: Lawyers,” FundFire and Financial Advisor IQ, 1 July 2024
  • Quoted, “Will recent Supreme Court rulings 'devastate the functioning of the federal government?',” Government Executive, 1 July 2024
  • Quoted, “DC Circ. Gives FERC More Clarity On Scope Of Climate Reviews,” Law360, 17 June 2024
  • Quoted, “DC Circuit LNG fight showcases rift on social cost of carbon,” E&E News, 20 May 2024
  • Quoted, “DC Circ. Probes Carbon Capture In LNG Approval Challenge,” Law360, 17 May 2024
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